The political views of female journalists in Kenya are being sidelined compared to those of their male counterparts who are more dominant in the media and whose views shape political news, a new survey has revealed. On average more men (71 percent) than women (21 percent) are covered across all geographic news sections (international, regional, national and local) in TV, radio and newspapers, the survey by the African Woman and Child feature service (AWC) indicates.
The survey suggests that despite women being more numerous than men in media houses, their voices are not heard and men are often perceived as the main sources of information. Content by men is highly covered in all types of news stories. Unlike in the media houses there are generally more men than women in the media industry as a whole.
The survey found that although overall there are more men than women in Kenyan media, men are to be found in other aspects of media work, not just in the newsroom (where, however, content generated by men by far overwhelms that of their female counterparts) and men make up the majority of media owners and top managers.
MALE JOURNALISTS GET MORE AIRTIME
According to the study the percentage of stories on television, radio, and newspapers, done by female journalists was 32 percent compared to 53 percent by male journalists. In print media, males were covered more in articles (79 per cent), Editorials (67 per cent), Letters to the Editor (47 per cent) compared to the females who averaged 17 per cent in coverage in all sections of the newspaper.
The study also reveals that male journalists enjoy seven times the amount of television news time compared to women and that the former also gets the giant’s share on space allocation in newspapers (77 per cent) while females get 17 per cent. Men also seem to be the favoured sources of information in professions like law (92 per cent), police/military (89 per cent) and for politicians (88 per cent).
FEMALE NEWS ANCHORS
Whist there is too much of male supremacy in most areas of the media it appears that there is an area that favours women more in the media i.e. news anchoring.
Female news anchors are often regarded as more warm and appealing to the eye and its therefore not surprising that the findings of the AWC study indicate that female journalists were more dominant as news anchors (74 per cent) than men (22 per cent).
As the survey observes, “it is generally true that the women on television are young and attractive. Hence, the stereotype that young and attractive can only do better in increasing the viewership of the station, than, perhaps, through their stories. It is an indication of the media’s stereotypical portrayal of women as objects of attraction rather than professionals.”
So there you have it; female anchors are primarily hired for commercial and cosmetic purposes i.e. to attract viewership.
MEDIA HOUSES BIASED ON RECRUITMENT?
Ironically, the unequal gender representation highlighted by the study is a contrast to the statistics in the schools of journalism in the country whereby an equal number of women to men are graduating. So what happens to the female graduates?
“Perhaps the answer is to be found in the recruitment processes of media houses. These needs to be interrogated to either confirm or dispel the suspicion that media houses are biased, unsystematic and do not respect labour laws on gender parity.” reads part of the report.
The AWC report sought to monitor the treatment of women’s views in political news and highlight the disparities that exist in the Kenyan media’s coverage of men and women in the political sphere. A total of 922 news reporters from various media houses were monitored to gauge the representation of voices in the news and the monitoring took place between April and May, 2013.